On This Day: 14th June – England Succumb to West Germany in Classic Quarter Final

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English misery: it’s one of the few FIFA World Cup ever-presents of the past 50 years.

No matter how ‘golden’ the generation, no matter how ‘golden’ the balls, no matter how ‘golden’ the goalscorer – Gary Lineker’s golden boot win in 1986 – the Three Lions, at some point during every World Cup they’ve qualified for since 1966, have found a way to make the English populace miserable. 

So how does this happen? How, during every World Cup since 1966, have the England team managed to leave their whole nation crestfallen? 

Well usually, it’s a mix of the following: 

  • Unrealistically lofty expectations: ‘Football’s coming home! It’s coming home lads! This is the year! This is our year!’ 
  • Over-estimation of talent: ‘That Matthew Upson is a real talent. No one is getting past him this summer. He’s the new Bobby Moore.’
  • The quarter finals: England have only been past the quarter finals once since 1966.
  • Penalty shoot-out: It’s almost always a penalty shoot-out.
  • Germany: It’s always Germany.

On 14th June 1970, all but one of the aforementioned came together to break English hearts.

England went into the 1970 FIFA World Cup as world champions – yes England won the World Cup in 1966, and yes you’ve likely been reminded of that fact a million times this month – and were considered one of the heavy favourites to lift the Jules Rimet trophy once again. 

  • Unrealistically lofty expectations: Check. 

Led by Bobby Moore and the mercurial Bobby Charlton, bar a narrow defeat at the hands of eventual winners Brazil, the Three Lions’ route to the quarter finals of the 1970 tournament was a smooth one. 1-0 wins over Romania and Czechoslovakia respectively were enough to see England through to the quarter finals, where they would meet West Germany in a repeat of the 1966 final (which, annoyingly, England won). 

  • Quarter finals: Check.
  • Germany: Check.

Like England, West Germany had a comfortable route to the knockout rounds. Scoring 10 goals in the group stage wins against Morocco, Peru and Bulgaria, Die Mannschaft won group four at a canter thanks, in large part, to the incredible goalscoring form of ‘Der Bomber’ Gerd Muller. The young forward bagged an astonishing seven goals in the group stages, including hat-tricks in Germany’s wins over Peru and Bulgaria. 

Despite West Germany’s brilliant group stage form, England were still seen as huge favourites to make it through to the semi final.

In the days leading up to the quarter final tie in Leon however, Sir Alf Ramsey’s men were dealt a major blow as first choice goalkeeper Gordon Banks was struck down by a bout of food poisoning. 

It was a blow that many England fans thought their side could absorb, for the Three Lions had a more than adequate replacement: Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti. A goalkeeper who was apparently so agile and had such incredible reflexes that he was deemed worthy of the feline nickname. 

This nickname would – to say the very least – prove to be unapt, as Bonetti would ironically resemble another family pet during the quarter finals: a dog, haplessly chasing after the ball in his penalty area with catastrophic consequences. 

  • Over-estimation of talent: Check. 

The quarter final tie started remarkably well for England, as goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters gave the Three Lions a seemingly unassailable two goal lead. 

As it tends to be at World Cups however, England’s joy would prove to be fleeting. Two late goals – one a brilliant long range effort from Franz Beckenbauer, the other an Uwe Seeler header which would loop over Peter ‘The Dog’ Bonetti who was inexplicably standing six yards off his goal line – would send the quarter final to extra time. 

Four years previous England had gotten the better of West Germany in extra time to win their first and only FIFA World Cup. On this occasion in Leon, it would be the West Germans who would come out on top. 

Gerd Muller would pop up unmarked in the six yard box to volley home after Bonetti had, expectedly, gone walkabouts once again. 

The game would finish 3-2, and thus mark the start of the so-called ’52 years of hurt’ for the English populace. 

England fans would like to think that things have changed since that fateful 1970 World Cup quarter final. That the national team has improved. That defeats have become less cruel. That their skin would be thicker. Expectations less inflated. But there seems to be an element of that afternoon in Leon in everything that’s happened to the English national team since. 

All of England’s World Cup appearances are a scrambled version of that first heartache in 1970.

So, will this year be the year everything changes? 

Considering England could face Germany in the quarter finals this year, one wouldn’t count on it. 

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